|I am back in the United States for a couple of days before I head out again to Mexico. As an itinerant missionary, I travel between the United States and Mexico as a sort of permanent short term missions person. After spending the last few weeks in Ensenada, a small town in Northern Mexico, Friday morning I will be in Guadalajara, capital of the State of Jalisco and home to the Mexican culture as most “gringos” know it. This is the area where mariachi music is from, tacos are king, and rodeos and bullfights are held regularly. The main catherdral is pictured on the right. It is also home to more than7,000,000 people, including a group of ex pats from the US and Canada of more than 100,000.|
I am indeed blessed to have the opportunity to serve Jesus and my brothers and sisters from Mexico. It is both a challenge, and an honor. As I do so, I find that I am on the road almost half the year. This year someone I asked me what one of the things I missed most about being outside of the US during the summer. As I thought about that, one thing that came to mind almost immediately was baseball.
That’s right, baseball. The game that used to be known as the National Pastime. When I was growing up, learning the game, and becoming hooked, the big players were names like Mays, Aaron,Bench, Koufax, Seaver, Ryan, and Killebrew. Look ‘em up. Everyone a Hall of Fame player. Nicknames like “The Big Red Machine”, Mr. October, Sudden Sam, Yaz. That was when baseball had character and the players had heart, drive, and determination. They knew that if they did not play hard, they might be replaced. Because there was no such thing as a guaranteed contract back then. You had to perform, or risk a cut in pay. You got the big bucks at the end of your career, as a reward for performance. Not early on based on your potential.
I think even if I was here in the summers now, I would not be happy with baseball. The game has changed, and I am not sure it is for the better. Now if you can pitch 6 innings, and “only” give up 3 runs, that is a quality start. Can you imagine someone like Ferguson Jenkins or Steve Carlton only pitching 6 innings a game? In today’s baseball that works out to about 195 innings. When Fergie was pitching for the Cubs he’d usually pitch about 275 innings a year. I think he won over 20 games 6 straight years. He was embarrassed to need a reliever. Guys back then finished games. That was what you were paid to do. And they pitched for 15 years.
There was also no designated hitter. Or should I say, someone who cannot play in the field but is still permitted to play. Imagine the numbers Mickey Mantle could put up if he wasn’t required to play in the field. And what about base stealers? Remember Lou Brock? Maury Wills? Tim Raines? 100 steals a year. Now the lead base stealer gets about 50 a year and is considered a speedster. Incredible.
Baseball has changed. I am not sure it is for the better. Players make more money, but apart from a select few, most cannot really claim to be better than the previous generation. Football players, yes. Basketball players, probably. Baseball players, I don’t think so. So do I miss baseball? Yes. But probably not baseball as it is played these days. It is just not as good, or as fun.